Carved out of the forest in the town of Bracebridge is a hidden gem amongst the onset of newer resort courses in the area. Set at just over 6300 yards from the tips and offering six yardage options set from four tee blocks, South Muskoka Curling and Golf Club provides fun for golfers of all levels but will challenge the most skilled player. I loved the fact I was able to use all clubs in my bag over a round. Reflecting back, the layout offers incredible diversity in holes and shots required. While walkable it does offer some nice elevation change, both in terms of elevated tee shots but challenges in terms of some elevated greens.
With the Ontario summer being cooler and damp the course was very lush, damp in parts but overall in superb condition. Tee boxes were consistently flat, mown down and approach areas easily identifiable. Rough helps stop some wayward tee shots but the surrounding forest frames holes very well and creates a feel for each hole playing in isolation of others, with very few exceptions. Greens were some of the best I had played all season, albeit a little slower than I was used to but recent rains kept them moist and a little slower than normal. They rolled true and had very few ball marks on them. Friendly staff greeted me and their pro shop is well stocked if you’re seeking a souvenir of the round or need a jacket for a cool morning tee time.
What stood out for me was the true variety of golf holes. Holes 2 and 3 require real precision off the tee. Holes 13 and 16 require length and invite using driver with wider landing areas. The par 3’s are all beautiful and have nice variety to them in their yardage, elevation and defences. My favourite holes are the par 5 12th which challenges the golfer to position their tee shot past the lone, tall pine which is in the middle of the fairway and the tough par 4 13th which demands length off the tee before a precise second shot guarded by trees left and a pond right. The short par 3 14th, set over a pond, may be a signature hole; it’s stunning. The closing stretch of 16-18 offer no breaks after a challenging round. The 16th is the longest par 4 on the course and is set up beautifully with an elevated tee box. 18 will require an accurate tee shot to have any chance of hitting the green which is protected by a small valley to catch shots coming up short.
With a membership of almost 600, I was surprised it had a private course feel but teeing off at 7:00 am on cool wet summer mornings may have something to do with that too. Over the two rounds recently played, there was ample evidence of wildlife – birds, deer and wild turkeys. No birds on the card mind you. Greens were fair in their size and slope.
It was a pleasant course to walk, even with the elevation changes. The only real test was between 10 and 11; the uphill walk got my heart rate up a little. The style of course reminded me of Waskesiu in Saskatchewan and The Lakes in Nova Scotia, but with a real, authentic Muskoka feel to it, complete with granite outcroppings, none more impressive than on the par 4 6th hole. If you’re travelling to golf in Muskoka, and there’s plenty of reason to do so, be sure to add South Muskoka in Bracebridge to your must play list!
Aura – 6 out of 10 – Simply put, it lacks the cache of higher end Muskoka courses. But trust me, for value seekers, take advantage of this!
Value (cost / experience) – 9 out of 10. Being able to play this course for under $70 including taxes at peak time is incredible value. The layout, conditioning and challenge of the track place it as a very high value play.
Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – The layout is a real plus. There is great diversity of holes. It will require the player to really think, play smart shots and pay attention to their short game. – 8.5 out of 10
Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – I did not score well either day, but loved the test of golf the course provided me. I felt I had a chance to experience many shots and given the location and natural beauty of this course, it was a most relaxing experience. I loved this course and would be very happy to play this track every day. – 9 out of 10
Highlight (what is great about the course) – The convenience is incredible. Minutes from Hwy 11, set in downtown Bracebridge but with a layout that leaves golfers thinking they are nowhere near town.
Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – warm-up facilities – simply put they are good but not great. Players can warm up their swing but using a club higher than a 5 iron is challenging. Also, I did find holes 3 and 15 (both par 5’s) a little too similar in set up, with a shorter more accurate tee shot needed to be positioned to address the dogleg from left to right. Both are very minor issues, however.
Just So You Know – So, if you’re interested in joining South Muskoka as a member (and with an annual membership rate of under $1200, why wouldn’t you) you better be patient. Membership is capped at 595 and their waiting list is currently at 130. Understandable, of course.
My Best Shot – My drive on the par 4 13th on the second round was possibly my best of the season. But my best two shot stretch was the downhill par 4 10th hole. A mid iron to the 150 marker set me up for a second shot which plays longer than it looks with a slight breeze in my face and a challenging valley to swallow shots coming up short. My approach left me with a great birdie attempt! (But we’ll stop the story there).